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AL-RAFIDAN Vol. XVIII 1997 175 


Charles BURNEY* 

It is a pleasure to have been invited to contribute to this Festschrift for Professor Hideo Fujii. I wish 
him many more years' fruitful work, but must apologize for reintroducing well-worn topics. I do so 
with the intention of inserting some viewpoints of my own. Naturally only a selection of the published 
literature on the Proto-Indo-Europeans and early Hurrians can be cited for want of space. My long- 
standing interest in the latter is well attested (Burney 1958, 1971, 1989a, 1989b, 1994 and in press). 

The search for the precise identity of ancient populations, not least in the Near East, continues to 
engross numerous specialists, while alarming those on the periphery by the complexity of the many 
questions raised. The disciplines of comparative linguistics, philology, historical analysis, anthropology, 
palaeoecology and practical archaeology all have their roles. Grasp of the archaeological publications 
and first-hand knowledge of the terrain in question are also desirable. If it were possible to find anyone 
with so wide a range of expertise, the approaches to all ancient ethnic groups would be better directed ! 
Coordination instead of fragmentation of effort could then be achieved. 

The limits to individual grasp of the multifarious problems surrounding both Indo-Europeans and 
Hurrians need not be disastrous, provided always that there is a sense of balance, a willingness to listen 
and a generous measure of common sense. Alas, this last is not always to be found in academic 
publications. Some of the more dogmatic or fanciful approaches will inevitably be alluded to in this 

Dearth of relevant data remains a problem, although much recent research in different disciplines 
has been devoted to the Proto-Indo-Europeans and their descendants. Useful overviews have appeared 
on the early Indo-Europeans (Mallory 1973, 1989; Anthony 1991), as well as a concise but masterly 
work on the Hurrians (Wilhelm 1989). Yet even these are not without shortcomings. 

Linguists, philologists, historians, anthropologists, palaeoecologists and archaeologists all have 
their own theories or models, their own approaches, special interests, prejudices and (dare one say ?) 
their own idiosyncrasies. As an archaeologist the writer must declare an interest, while making every 
effort to achieve balance. This seems appropriate now that various tentative ventures have been launched 
towards a greater mutual understanding between the disciplines involved (Markey and Greppin 1990). 

The archaeologists have one advantage, the imperative to keep their noses close to the ground, both 
on excavations and during field surveys. The Japanese excavations at Tell Jigan and other sites in the 
Eski Mosul (Saddam Dam) area of northern Iraq are an exemplar of conscientious devotion to their 
trenches and to the pottery and other finds therefrom (Fujii et al. 1987). Intensive surveys have to be 
carried out with comparable discipline. On the wider-ranging archaeological reconnaissance, however, 
the sherd-gathering student is liable to be greeted as a "pottery engineer". Hard-won familiarity with 
regional environment, at least in the more favourable months, is a positive gain. On the negative side 
must be set the widely held dogma, elevated by some archaeologists almost to the level of a theological 
doctrine, to the effect that indigenous development was the norm in prehistory; and that migrations can 
be all but ruled out as a stimulus to cultural change, the extreme position in the argument. It is undeniable 
that earlier emphasis on diffusion (Childe 1952) required drastic modification, being in any case based 
on far fewer data than those available today. Yet however questionable it may be, hyper-diffusionism 

* Department of Archaeology, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, England 


Charles BURNEY 

Fig. 1 Proto-Indo-European and Hurrian habitats. 

is not dead, at least not in the context of placing the Proto-Indo-European homeland around Catal Hiiyiik, 
in the seventh millennium BC (Renfrew 1987: 75-98). Common sense and a recognition of the limits 
to knowledge of preliterate societies are essential. Without historical records, however fragmentary or 
biassed, how much would we know of the so-called barbarian invasions which led to the downfall of the 
Roman empire in the west, still less of Theodoric, Genseric or Attila (Gibbon 1776-87)? Destructions 
abound in the archaeological record, but how much evidence is there to identify individual tribes, least 
of all in that age of rapid movements from southern Russia to north Africa ? 

In contrast to inbuilt archaeological parochialism, linguists have long since held one advantage, a 
willingness or even a zeal to take the panoramic view, continental or even at times worldwide, in their 
quest for comparative data. In this respect they are closer than the archaeologists to the traditional 
allies of the latter, the anthropologists. This wider view is easily comprehensible in Indo-Europeanists, 
seeing how widespread the use Indo-European languages has become across the globe. There is a 
danger, however, that tiresome details of space and time may be brushed aside in pursuit of the quarry, 
often the product of etymological reconstruction and indicated in the literature by an asterisk. Some 
use of such reconstructions will be made below, but with due caution. The most glaring distortion of 
linguistic scholarship was seen earlier this century, in the uncritical exaltation of the Aryans, the effects 
of which were lifted only two or three decades ago (Polikov 1974; compare Childe 1926). Nineteenth- 
century outlooks have been a long time dying. Arrows have sometimes been drawn on maps with 
more imagination than material basis (Renfrew 1987: 206). 

Linguistic palaeontology is commonly regarded with some suspicion by archaeologists, when they 
note how much can be built on all too slim foundations, in a manner admittedly not altogether different 
from the model-building beloved of prehistorians. To be discounted are efforts to reconstruct the sounds 
made when men and women opened their mouths in (say) the third or fourth millennium BC, i.e. 


glottochronology, now widely though not universally discredited (Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1984). This 
must especially be so when there are hints of what may be called archaeo-nationalism, the quest by a 
contemporary people for distant ancestral roots: the smaller the people, the more they are prone to this 
malady. Linguistic palaeontology — here under scrutiny in the context of the Proto-Indo-European 
homeland, environment and society — can, however, be of considerable value to the archaeologist, even 
if any non-linguist is obliged to take it for the most part on trust. For many years Indo-Europeanists 
have been endeavouring to reconstruct the natural environment surrounding the Proto-Indo-European 
population, essentially to determine at least the general location of the homeland, the Urheimat, so long 
the focus of debate. Trees (Friedrich 1970), wild mammals (Mallory 1982), fish (Mallory 1984) and 
birds (Mallory 1991) are among the topics of research, the best of which is directed to securing the 
foundations of the imposing edifice so painstakingly erected over many decades by specialists from 
numerous countries. A proportion of their labours appears from time to time in conference proceedings 
(e.g. Polome and Winter 1992) or in successive volumes of the Journal of Indo-European Studies. 
Archaeologists and historians, however objective their assessments must be, ignore such conclusions at 
their peril. 

What of the cuneiformists and historians of the ancient Near East ? Their scholarly studies, like 
those of the linguists, stretch back over a longer time-span than most relevant archaeological research. 
Consequently there lingers on a tendency to discount the existence of ethnic groups not directly attested 
in surviving written sources. Except for southern Mesopotamia and Egypt and a few other sources 
such as Ebla, there is little that can be termed a historical record before the second millennium BC. 

The Hurrians 

Hurrian words and names have been recognized in documents of the Akkadian period from the Khabur 
region, from Gasur and from Nippur, though suggesting no more than a limited infiltration at this early 
stage (Wilhelm 1989: 7-9; Milano 1991). While a Hurrian presence in northern Mesopotamia and 
Syria during the later third millennium BC is perforce agreed, there remains a reluctance to concede the 
case for a Hurrian homeland coterminous with the extensive Early Trans-Caucasian cultural zone (Burney 
and Lang 1971: 47-51). There is now some support for this theory (Diakonov 1990: 62-3) and a 
willingness to postulate a Proto-Hurrian homeland (Wilhelm 1989: 6). This nomenclature is logical, 
given the wide agreement that Hurrian and Urartian were linguistically related through a common Proto- 
Hurro-Urartian ancestor (Diakonov 1971), with possible East Caucasian affinities (Diakonov and Starostin 

The Hurrians have been largely identified with Mitanni, overlooking the fact that this was a political 
rather than an ethnic entity (Drower 1973), the same authority mentioning a movement from eastern 
Anatolia (Drower 1973: 417). The vision of skilled horsemen, implied in the famous Kikulli text from 
Bogazkoy, and of the maryannu as the earliest manifestation of knightly prowess has diverted attention 
disproportionately to the role of Indo-Aryans in the Near East in the mid-second millennium BC. The 
question of how these charioteers and cavalry appeared for a time in the forefront of Near Eastern power 
politics has not been adequately addressed. For any solution to be attempted, it is essential to look 
back much further, even to the fourth millennium BC. 

This assertion runs counter to the traditional opinion of the historians, based on the cuneiform 
sources, with a hesitant approach to ethnic identification in the absence of onomastic evidence, perhaps 
the surest indication of ethnicity. Unfortunately for its ready recognition, the Hurrian contribution to 
the varied cultural landscape of the ancient Near East became obscured by acculturation: the Hurrians 
became in effect the apostles of Sumero-Akkadian learning in the lands to the west and north-west, 
culminating in their role in the civilization of the Hittite New Kingdom in the fourteenth and thirteenth 
centuries BC. 

Yet had the direct ancestors of the historical Hurrians not played a part in the Near East in earlier 

178 Charles BURNEY 

generations, specifically in the third millennium BC ? Radiocarbon dating suggests, contrary to earlier 
absolute chronologies (Burney and Lang 197 1 : 46), that the relevant context in terms of material culture 
can be traced back as early as c.3600/3500 BC (Easton 1976; Sagona 1984: 1 22-7 and Table 4). This 
higher dating, as argued below, will prove of wider significance than might have been expected. 

In any exposition of the Early Trans-Caucasian (ETC) role in the Near East it is important to 
maintain geographical precision (Fig. 1). Even one very recent map (Carter and Parker 1995: 97) 
implies territorial limits for this remarkably extensive cultural zone for some reason excluding Trans- 
Caucasia and north-western Iran. There has even reappeared the term "Karaz culture", in vogue when 
only a thin scatter of ETC sites had been recognized (Marro 1993: 58-61). Variants in buildings and 
pottery, while undeniable, should not blind us to the overall unity of the ETC cultural zone over many 
centuries, commonly distinguished as the ETC I and ETC II periods. No doubt a number of factors 
brought about the breakdown of this homogeneous cultural tradition, in the third and final period, ETC 
III (c.2600-2000 BC). Innovations are especially apparent in the Malatya-Elazig region of the upper 
Euphrates basin, where a distinctive painted pottery developed, recognized in its true context a generation 
ago (Burney 1958: 169-71, 202-8). That context derives from ETC roots, evident in the ceramic 
forms, cross-fertilized with painted pottery traditions at home in north Syria and exemplified in Alalakh 
XVI- VIII (Burney 1958: 208). Suggestions of a purely localized culture (Marro 1993: 61-2) or of 
ethnic affinities with central Anatolia, specifically with Hattians and Proto-Hittites, on the basis of ceramic 
decorative motifs (Carter and Parker 1995: 102-3) are surely rather far-fetched. Reference to motifs 
on ETC pottery from Trans-Caucasia further stretches credulity. Such arguments smack of "iconograohic 
palaeontology": sometimes justifiable, they require supporting evidence to become readily acceptable. 

Faint hints of early Hurrians lurk in linguistic data: thus the Sumerian word ta/ibira, meaning 
'copper- worker' , can with certainty be attributed to a Hurrian derivation (Wilhelm 1989: 8-9). Copper- 
working in the Malatya-Elazig region dates back well before the ETC III period, especially at Nor§untepe 
(Zwicker 1980) but also at Tepecik and Arslantepe (Palmieri, A. M., Sertok and Chernykh 1993). The 
abundant evidence of a Sumerian presence along the Euphrates on either side of the modern Turco- 
Syrian frontier (summarized in Roaf 1990: 63-7), as well as the indications of relations with the 
Mesopotamian world in the Late Uruk period further up the valley at Arslantepe (Frangipane and Palmieri 
1983), suggest, with the metallurgical evidence, a favourable cultural climate for the first entree of the 
Hurrian highlanders from their ETC homeland into the lowlands. Therefore economic stimuli would 
have been predominant, well before the advent of chariotry and cavalry, as in the days of Mitanni. Thus 
can be explained the distinctive character of the ETC III culture of the Malatya-Elazig region, a constant 
factor being the abundant nearby source of copper in Ergani Maden. Hurrians may well have penetrated 
widely through northern Syria and Mesopotamia by virtue of their skills as coppersmiths and very probably 
also as traders. Thus a favourable climate was created, with appropriate incentives, for the later mass 
movements of Hurrians into the lowlands. Where such favourable conditions for industrial production 
and trade did not exist, as in the greater part of the rest of the wide ETC cultural zone, material culture 
suggests a conservative society, changing but slowly. In some areas it survived perhaps until the mid- 
second millennium BC (Burney and Lang 1971 : 47), as also indicated by recent and ongoing excavations 
at Sos Hiiyiik, east of Erzurum (Sagona 1994). 

The penetration of ETC elements into the Elazig area in the ETC I period and then in ETC II across 
the Euphrates River into the area of Malatya was the result, it seems, of a powerful centrifugal force 
behind the relatively rapid expansion of the ETC population from the general region of Trans-Caucasia. 
Once settled in the Elazig-Malatya region, the economic influences outlined above came into operation 
on the newcomers. An ample range of excavated material now demonstrates the character of this 
region in the fourth and third millennia BC (Conti and Persiani 1993). There is a reasonable possibility 
that the ETC population through its highland homeland, from the Caucasus to the Urmia basin and to 
Malatya, may have evolved a hierarchical or ranked society, although the available archaeological evidence 


can hardly be said to include symbolic indications of rank or authority (Mallory 1989: 233). Of local 
cults there is some evidence, most vividly at Pulur (Sakyol) (Ko§ay 1976), implying though scarcely 
proving a degree of social cohesion. Reference to Hurrian communities in north Syria and Mesopotamia 
shows the juxtaposition of ruler and city council. In the highland zone no doubt a less sophisticated 
familial structure persisted, based on the extended family and in some cases controlling large territories; 
but the evidence is of later date, from the Urartian written records (Diakonov 1984: 43). The growth of 
extended families may be postulated from the increasing size, through successive occupation levels, of 
the ETC II round houses of Yanik Tepe, in the northern Urmia basin (Bumey 1961 , 1962, 1964). Country 
estates close to the royal dynasty of Urartu are mentioned in Sargon IPs account of his eighth campaign 
(714 BC) (Luckenbill 1927: 91). 

Archaeological indications of the Hurrian impact on the lowlands are of course associated with the 
emergence of Mitanni. Recent seasons of excavations at Tell Brak remove any possibility that the 
Hurrian presence was negligible in cultural terms. On top of the ruins of the major temple was built a 
palace, whose private quarters were reached by staircases to an upper storey, as at Alalakh, representing 
a departure from previous design. Traces of inlaid glass, with the historical record, indicate a date 
close to the mid-sixteenth century BC. By then Parattarna, king of Mitanni, controlled the whole territory 
from Kizzuwatna and Alalakh near the Mediterranean to Nuzi in the east. The desecration of the 
temple and secularization of its site surely mark an alien intrusion, not the work of a small band of 
horsemen (Oates 1987), While there may not be agreement on the historical identification of Tell Brak 
(Oates 1987; Matthews and Eidem 1993), it was clearly a city of major economic if not also political 

The very name 'Hurrian' may give clues to the origins of this ethnic group. Just as there are hints 
of Indo-European origins near the Caspian, in a land where the sun rises from the sea (Steiner 1990), so 
it is suggested that the term hurri-le signifies 'easterners' or 'north-easterners' and thus the homeland 
whence they expanded into upper Mesopotamia and north Syria (Diakonov 1990: 62). This term may 
be compared with Hurrian hurri ('morning'). 

An archaeological pointer to links between the Urmia basin and the Khabur valley — however 
cautiously such parallels should be treated — is to be seen in painted sherds of a figure with legs splayed 
apart, perhaps a dancer, and wearing a fringed kilt or skirt, occurring at Haftavan VI (Edwards 1983: 
35 le) and at Tell Brak level 3 (Stein 1984: Plate XI, 7). With a date for the beginning of Level 3 at 
Brak from c.1550 BC, the association with the rise of Mitanni is evident; but it comes rather too late for 
the migration of Hurrian newcomers from the highlands to the east or north-east. 

On linguistic and historical grounds a migration from Iranian Azerbaijan has been proposed and 
dated c.1700 BC (Diakonov 1990: 64). An earlier movement out of the Urmia basin, so far 
indistinguishable likewise in the archaeological record, has boldly been proposed as the earliest historically 
attested movement of Indo-Europeans into the Near Eastern lowlands. These were the Guti, who overran 
the Akkadian state, and who are here identified with the Tukres and the historical Kuchi-Tocharians far 
to the east (Henning 1978). This posthumously published idea, however, has been vigorously attacked 
on the ground of the time-span of nearly three millennia (Zimmer 1990a: 319), with preference for a 
Trans-Caucasian homeland for the Guti/Quti (Diakonov 1990: 63). The Hurrian kingdom established 
in the mid-second millennium BC was officially named Hanigalbat, surviving in name into the Late 
Assyrian period: it was the dynasty which was called Mitanni/Maitani. It may be significant that the 
Urmia basin was later called Matieni, forming part of the eighteenth satrapy in the reorganization of the 
Persian empire by Darius I (Burney and Lang 1971: 180). 

Military movements are notoriously difficult to trace in the archaeological record without benefit 
of pictorial or written documentation, as in the Late Assyrian palaces, or without a chain of destructions 
such as those left by Genghis Khan. The military presence in the archaeological record is 
overwhelmingly that of the defensive rather than the offensive. It seems that the maryannulmarianna 

180 Charles BURNEY 

charioteers of Mitanni were neither an aristocratic elite nor an Indo- Aryan caste but exclusively Human 
(Diakonov 1990: 64). Etymologically this term can fairly be described as Eastern Caucasian, a hint of 
the possible geographical antecedents of these horsemen, perhaps from much the same quarter as the 
Guti before them. A word for "watch soldier", possibly of Hurrian origin, as well as Urartian, though 
found also in Late Akkadian, in Ugaritic and especially in Assyrian, is huradi. This may be associated 
with the stem hur, "belonging to the semantic sphere of war" and "quite conceivable as the self-description 
of a race" (Wilhelm 1989: 1). It could alternatively have been a pejorative term, as with the Habiru 
'mercenaries', 'tinkers' etc. rather than a precise ethnic group. Unfortunately the Turkic hur ('free') 
can hardly be related. One fact seems certain: the dominance of the Hurrians, in the lands which 
became Mitanni, in chariotry, until it was introduced effectively to other lands, notably the Levant and 
New Kingdom Egypt. To what degree chariotry was a Hurrian invention in the Near East can be 
answered only with reference to Indo-Europeans, discussed below. 

The more peaceful accomplishments of the Hurrians — in literature, music and their religious 
manifestations — have long been recognized, from central Anatolia to upper Mesopotamia. These 
were the Hurrians of the diaspora, who had undergone a long process of acculturation. The Hurrians 
who had remained behind in their highland homeland, the ETC cultural zone, stayed largely untouched 
by the urban world of the southern plains. By the mid-second millennium BC, however, new elements 
in the material culture were appearing (Cilingiroglu 1984), including painted pottery from north-western 
Iran (Edwards 1986); but there is little or no trace of settlements in the second millennium BC in wide 
tracts of eastern Anatolia. In Trans-Caucasia too data are largely from tombs (Burney and Lang 197 1 : 
86-1 10). Two sectors, however, of the former ETC zone — the Urmia basin and the Elazig-Malatya 
region — were less isolated, enjoying continuity of settlement and closer contact with Mesopotamia and 
Syria, especially along the upper Euphrates. 

The complex iconography of the famous gold bowl of Hasanlu (Winter, I. J. 1989) has long been 
associated with the Hurrian myth of Kumarbi, itself perhaps implying unsettled conditions around the 
end of the second millennium BC, if not earlier. While the ceramic evidence seems to point to an 
Iranian presence in north-western Iran at that time (Iron II period), the gold bowl is unequivocally 
Hurrian or Hurro-Mannaean in inspiration. Myth and cult, pantheon and family guardians alike survived 
through generations of obscurity. But it was language which indubitably survived, as proved by the 
numerous Urartian inscriptions. The Urartian language, it is generally agreed, had evolved from a 
Hurro-Urartian substratum, which may well have been the language of the ETC population in the fourth 
and third millennia BC. As for the gold bowl of Hasanlu, it reflects the context of Hurrian society 
before the expansion into the lowlands, in the era of the ETC Hurrian homeland (Stein 1989: 84). 

Religion and funerary customs are commonly supposed to preserve ancestral memories and traditions. 
Uch-Tepe and other early burial mounds (kurgans) occur in areas where all known evidence points to a 
non-Indo-European population, almost certainly Hurrian in large part, with East Caucasian elements 
(Mallory 1989: 29-30, 23 1-3). The Hurrian sun-god Shimake was etymologically related to the Urartian 
sun-god Shivini, though less exalted in rank. The Hurrian moon-god Kushuh has been associated with 
the Proto-Hattian moon-god Kasku, a relationship suggesting very early linguistic contacts between 
Hattians and Hurrians, thus between central and eastern Anatolia (Wilhelm 1989: 53). Such contacts 
must have occurred by the later fourth millennium BC, after the initial expansion of the ETC cultural 
zone (Sagona 1984: 138-9). Given the pastoralist and semi-nomadic character of much of ETC society 
and the difficulty of detecting settlement remains in areas then largely forest-covered and probably 
building mainly in timber, the absence of supporting archaeological evidence is only to be expected. 

The latter end of Hurro-Urartian history is bound up with problems related to the early Armenians, 
an Indo-European people who penetrated Urartu during the later seventh century BC from the west 
(Herodotus VII, 73; Strabo XI, 14, 12). Linguistics have been deployed to refute the writer's suggestion 
of a largely Hurrian ancestry for the Armenians, unconnected with their adoption of an Indo-European 


language related to Old Phrygian (Burney and Lang 1 97 1 : 1 77-9; Greppin n.d.). The arguments around 
the theme of race versus language are interminable. An alternative explanation could be that small 
bands of Armenians succeeded, with the decline and fall of Urartu, in gaining control of much of eastern 
Anatolia, including the most productive pastures; but that these newcomers were few, and became absorbed 
into the indigenous Hurro-Urartian population, while imposing their language on the majority. The 
scarcity of Hurro-Urartian survivals in the Armenian language seems to prove nothing (Diakonov 1985). 
How many linguistic survivals were absorbed into Turkish with the Seljuk conquest of Anatolia ? In 
Anglo-Norman England, however, the conquered native population retained much of its cultural identity 
through the preservation of its language, though subject to radical evolution and absorption of much of 
the vocabulary of the Norman ruling class. Three centuries, however, were to pass before the preservation 
of the English language was assured. In human history and prehistory tribal movements, massacres 
and political instability have seldom allowed so long a period for cultural consolidation. 

The Indo-Europeans 

The Indo-Europeans and their Proto-Indo-European (PIE) ancestors may at first be considered a wholly 
new theme, alien to and divorced from study of non-Indo-European populations in the ancient Near 
East, whether Sumerians, Elamites, Semites or indeed Hurrians. True it is that European prehistory 
may be envisaged as extending to the Caucasus, though since the days of Childe its eastern frontier has 
retreated westwards towards the Dnieper. But the Caucasus has never been so formidable a natural 
barrier that contacts and even major movements from north to south, from the steppes of the Pontic- 
Caspian zone to the highlands of Anatolia and Iran, can be discounted. As indicated above, any frontier 
is as much in the minds of modern-day scholars as in the realities of the past millennia. 

The problem of the PIE homeland cannot be set aside without comment, for on its solution depends 
much of the interpretation of later developments involving Indo-Europeans, from the Indus valley to 
Anatolia and to the Caspian steppes and beyond (Fig. 1). A fairly recent discussion (Anthony 1991) 
puts matters in perspective, in a manner uncluttered by nationalistic or academic prejudices or 
obsessions. Anthony stresses several aspects: the great preponderance of PIE linguistic links with 
Finno-Ugric over those with Semitic; the archaeological pointers to PIE associations with the Andronovo 
culture in the east, the situation in the west being less clear for the period preceding dispersal from the 
PIE homeland; the limits of the homeland; and the linguistic evidence for a homeland in the temperate 
zone. All these factors indicate a PIE homeland north of the Caucasus, most probably between the 
lower Volga and the Dnieper basins. 

T.V. Gamkrelidze, in contrast, puts the PIE homeland "somewhere in the broad area extending 
from the Balkans to northern Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau... in the fifth to fourth millennia BC" 
(Gamkrelidze 1990: 6). He goes on to place the PIE homeland in "a region contained within eastern 
Anatolia, the southern Caucasus and northern Mesopotamia in the fourth to fifth millennia BC" 
(Gamkrelidze 1990: 10). While welcoming archaeological support from an unexpected quarter (Renfrew 
1987), he flies in the face of the archaeological data when they do not agree with his linguistic analysis. 
He skirts the issue of the archaeological evidence. At one point the Proto-Indo-Europeans are peaceful 
agriculturalists; the next moment they are rapidly mobile charioteers, whose migrations, complete with 
horses and chariots, began as early as the end of the fourth millennium BC (Gamkrelidze 1990: 12). This 
hypothesis could be said to fit well alongside the late Roman Ghirshman's reconstruction of pre-Iranian 
movements (Ghirshman 1977). References to Proto-Kartvelian parallels imply a quest by Gamkrelidze 
for his own prehistoric ancestors. Diakonov has commented ironically that "the whole Ivanov- 
Gamkrelidze theory shows a picture of Indo-European languages moving in a giant rotating movement 
with immovable Georgian as the axis of the giant wheel" (Diakonov 1990: 61). The Armenians and 
even the Azerbaijanis demonstrate comparable approaches. 

Greek migration westwards from Anatolia to the Aegean, suggested by Gamkrelidze, fits in with 

182 Charles BURNEY 

James Mellaart's ideas of a generation ago, e.g. on Minyan ware (Mellaart 1958). At the end of his 
Bellagio symposium paper (Gamkrelidze 1990: 14) he throws in the theory that "the area north of the 
Black Sea and the Volga steppes may be considered the basic common (although secondary) homeland 
for the "Ancient European" languages.." The emphasis is on 'secondary', with an olive branch to 
Gimbutas in a reference to this as "the homeland of the western group of Indo-European languages." An 
alternative PIE homeland in the Balkans, though cogently argued, seems less probable (Diakonov 1985a). 
Perhaps the strongest archaeological hint of Indo-European origins in Gamkrelidze' s secondary homeland, 
the Pontic-Caspian zone, lies in the earliest known domestication of the horse, located more precisely 
along the Dnieper (Anthony 1986; Anthony and Brown 1991) or at least within the PIE homeland 
between the Dnieper and the lower Volga. 

One of the recurrent lines of linguistic argument revolves round the great length of time needed for 
the breakdown of the PIE proto-language, initially in the west into the Anatolian dialects first evident in 
the karum of Kanesh and in the east into Tocharian. The assumption of a measurable rate of change 
appears to be fundamental to many a palaeo-linguistic model. But may a non-linguist be so bold as to 
question this ? The writer finds himself for once in agreement with Renfrew on a crucial point (Renfrew 
1990: 19). Surely in preliterate societies and in those with only a very small literate "cleracy" linguistic 
changes can develop far more rapidly, when there is no strict canon of speech, written expression or 
style ? One could cite the example of early English, of the degree of change from Chaucer to Shakespeare 
in two hundred years, compared with the four centuries or so since Shakespeare. The implication for 
Anatolia would seem to be that immigration of PIE elements as late as the mid-third millennium BC 
could have given birth to the Indo-European dialects of the period of the Assyrian colonies. A dating 
of these movements during the fourth millennium BC, however, seems more probable (Mallory 1989: 
263-4; Mellaart 1981; Steiner 1990). 

Gamkrelidze' s reconstruction of Kartvelian connections with Indo-European languages is not 
unanimously accepted by linguists (Harris 1990). The whole region of the Caucasus does seem to 
have been a reservoir of heterogeneous ethno-linguistic groups over many millennia, a phenomenon 
related to the constant demographic, cultural and military movements through and around this mountain 
barrier. Hence came ever renewed contacts between the northern and Near Eastern peoples. It is the 
hint of a relationship between Proto-Kartvelian and Hattian which makes study of the former particularly 
significant. Such are the clues to population movements in the era of the ETC cultural zone. 

Attempts to reconstruct PIE society (Polome 1992), economy (Diebold 1992) and religion (Dumezil 
1958, 1977; Mallory 1989: 128^-2) have been too numerous for much discussion here. Some later, 
regional developments, notably in India and related to a supposed tripartite social structure, have been 
attributed to the PIE substratum on inadequate evidence (Zimmer 1990a: 313). Life in the open plains 
of the Pontic-Caspian zone must have accentuated any sense of insecurity: this may explain the pattern 
of villages, typical of the Kurgan tradition, focussed on a hill fort; it also gives a context to the dichotomy 
between "inside" and "outside" in assessments of their society by early Indo-Europeans. Security and 
mutual support were to be found within: outside lay the hostile, limitless world of the plains. The door 
itself had a symbolism denoting the boundary between these two, a symbolism evidently not unfamiliar 
to the Hurro-Urartian tradition as expressed in the recessed, rockcut stelae of Urartu (Tarhan and Sevin 
1975). The most enduring expression of Indo-European attachment to the security of the interior space 
was the dominant role of the family, discernible in the etymology of words denoting 'homestead' (Indie 
dam, Italic domus etc.). The available evidence for Proto- and early Indo-European religion shows an 
absence of temples but a tradition of gatherings akin to the Scottish ceilidh, livened by food, drink and 
music, with recitations. Again there is a parallel with early Hurrian tradition in the ETC cultural zone, 
with its widespread evidence for a domestic cult of the hearth (Volpe, della 1990: 159-60); and with 
textual evidence of Hurrian sacrificial practices and anointing of divine statues, with which an instrumental 
or choral accompaniment was often associated (Wilhelm 1989: 65). Prominent in early Indo-European 


ritual was horse sacrifice (Mallory 1981); and the respect for the horse persisted over many millennia, as 
exemplified by the names of the fifth-century AD Jutish mercenaries Hengist and Horsa ('stallion' and 
'horse'), who occupied the south-east corner of the British Isles, which became the kingdom (later 
county) of Kent. 

Whatever may be thought of reconstructions of Neolithic communities as being controlled by 
governing goddesses and sisterhoods, for which of course there can be no textual proof, it seems undeniable 
that Neolithic Europe including the Pontic-Caspian zone was relatively peaceful, in the light of the 
absence of defences for settlements and of weapons in burials (Gimbutas 1 990: 284; Meskell 1995). A 
few suggestions may be ventured on the changes which came about in the Pontic-Caspian zone in the 
fifth millennium BC. Rapid demographic change is indicated by the spread of uniform burial customs 
over the Yamnaya (Pit-Grave) cultural zone in the later fourth and earlier third millennium BC (Mallory 
1 990). Yet the presence in the PIE lexicon of many words for 'high mountains', 'heights', trees, plants 
and fauna at home in a highland environment cannot be brushed aside. Of considerable significance is 
the change, apparent from spectographic analyses, in the sources of copper for artifacts occurring in the 
Pontic-Caspian zone in the Early Eneolithic period, notably in the Sredny Stog culture of the middle 
Dnieper and Donets basins, and in the Late Eneolithic Yamnaya (Pit-Grave) culture of c. 3600-2200 BC 
(Mallory 1989: 206-15). This change was from Balkan-Danubian copper sources to others in the 
Caucasus. Technology in the Yamnaya culture was not very sophisticated, with tools for agriculture, 
hunting and fishing and weapons including flint daggers and arrowheads and stone battle-axes and 
mace-heads. Here is little support for the linguists' view of an advanced PIE material culture. There 
is, however, another link with the Caucasus, whence viticulture seems to have been introduced (Diebold 
1992: 334). 

Whether a hunger for land or the lure of booty or both motivated these highlanders, once they had 
spilled out on to the northern plains and steppes, they found conditions allowing for rapid movement and 
expansion. Arable farming was developed where the soils were favourable. Stockbreeding too was 
in evidence, with linguistic and archaeological data alike indicating a growth in the economic importance 
of cattle for the PIE population. Pastoralist nomadism and transhumance would have remained 
significant, as indeed likewise in the Hurrian ETC zone, where stockbreeding seems to have grown in 
importance towards the end of the fourth millennium BC (Sagona 1993: 453-4). Just when this 
movement from the north Caucasus foothills occurred, bringing newcomers into the region destined to 
become their homeland (Urheimat), is uncertain: it seems likely that at least the first wave of immigrants 
arrived in the period of the Sredny Stog culture of the Dnieper-Donets region and its contemporaries, 
including the Lower Mikhaylovka group, i. e. in a time-span beginning in the mid-fifth millennium BC. 

Such is the vast extent of the Pontic-Caspian zone that mastery of agriculture, cattle-breeding and 
copper-working would not in themselves have enabled the PIE newcomers to overrun the steppes and 
plains so rapidly and so decisively. One animal, the horse, played a major role, having first been 
domesticated in the fifth millennium BC (Sredny Stog etc.) and adopted as a mount in the fourth (Anthony 
1986). The implications of this innovation for general mobility hardly require emphasis. 

Soon after the appearance of horse-riding, a force for cultural unification within the Pontic-Caspian 
PIE homeland, widespread remains of two-wheeled carts and four-wheeled wagons are found in burials. 
Such wooden vehicles occur from the mid-fourth millennium BC, both in the TRB (Funnel Beaker) 
culture of northern Europe and at much the same time in Yamnaya contexts in the Pontic-Caspian zone 
and in Europe in the Carpathian basin and northern Italy. It has been suggested that these vehicles 
evolved from sledge through sledge-on-rollers to sledge-on-wheels, an invention made possible by the 
introduction of castration to produce oxen, in the first instance to pull the plough. Oxen alone could 
serve as draught animals, given the weight of these carts and wagons with their solid disc wheels (Piggott 
1983: 239). Agricultural requirements gave the initial stimulus to development of wheeled vehicles, 
implying extensive farm lands surrounding individual settlements. The advantages of wheeled transport 

184 Charles BURNEY 

for commercial caravans would surely, however, have been recognized quite soon. 

The mixed economy of the PIE homeland from the mid-fifth millennium BC must have been a 
source of economic strength. The additional acquisition of the means of rapid movement of personnel 
on horseback as well as of goods, if at a slower pace, by ox-cart gave the PIE population an advantage 
over all other contemporary ethnic groups, whether in Europe or the Near East. The PIE lexicon appears 
to add weight to the significance of wheeled transport in the Pontic-Caspian homeland. There has been 
discussion on the original birthplace of wheeled vehicles, whether in the Pontic-Caspian zone, in Sumer 
or (less plausibly) in Trans-Caucasia (Mallory 1989: 163). The orthodox view, crediting the Sumerians 
with this among many other technological innovations (Childe 1952), now requires reassessment. Not 
to be overlooked are the etymological parallels between PIE k"'ek K lo-, Sumerian gigir, Semitic galgal- 
and Kartvelian gigar, all but the Sumerian being asterisked as PIE and other linguistic constructs 
(Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1984; Mallory 1989: 163). The archaeological evidence is helpful, with an 
array of radiocarbon dates indicating that wheeled vehicles were widespread by the mid-fourth millennium 
BC. Although admittedly it is hard to push their origins back earlier in the fourth millennium BC, there 
is yet a slight chronological priority over the appearance of the Sumerian pictographic sign representing 
a four-wheeled vehicle. 

The common words for 'wheel' evidently point to the dispersal of Indo-European groups, for 
whatever reasons, from the PIE homeland as having begun not before c.3300 BC. This general dating 
could be profoundly significant, though some doubts have been voiced on the linguistic palaeontology 
(Renfrew 1990). 

The above discussion largely presupposes the possibility of deploying linguistic and archaeological 
data, reinforced by anthropological and historical insights, in the reconstruction of PIE culture in its 
widest sense. The minimalist view, however, holds that the very term "Indo-European" has a solely 
linguistic meaning. The same authority is nevertheless willing to accept common Indo-European traits, 
such as "Father Sky", the goddess "Dawn" and the significance of a code of conduct including the 
concepts of "hospitality" and "truth" in social life, the latter echoed millennia later by Darius I at Naqsh- 
i-Rustam. Moreover, the backbone of early Indo-European communities is agreed to have been a polity 
based on patrilinear extended families (Zimmer 1990b). 

Chariots and Horsemen 

From the miscellany of data assembled above conclusions must be put forward, some with more assurance 
than others. 

There is no reason to doubt the importance in prehistoric times of economic pressures or 
incentives. The role of transportation in PIE relations with the Near East cannot be exaggerated, notably 
in the growth of trade. This was probably indirect, through intermediaries in the Hurrian lands of the 
ETC cultural zone. There is no proof of the commodities involved; but wheeled transport and pack 
animals would have been prerequisites. Apart from the earlier appearance in Mesopotamia of the 
potter's wheel, not directly relevant, the case for Sumerian primacy in manufacture of the wagon and the 
cart is unconvincing. Matters were different of course when radiocarbon determinations for Pontic- 
Caspian sites seemed to demonstrate a dating well after the Late Uruk period of Mesopotamia: now a 
higher absolute chronology is accepted. It has been tempting to attribute a wide range of innovations 
to the nascent urban society of southern Mesopotamia. Certainly the Sumerians, with their genius for 
administration, can be credited with the first full scale development of writing and irrigation. Sailing 
craft were regularly plying the waterways; and in due course Hammurabi was to make their crews liable 
to conscription in time of war (Driver and Miles 1952-55). The mass production of tools and weapons 
in cast tin-bronze seems also an achievement of the Sumerians, but surely not the wheeled venicle. For 
one thing, it was not widely suitable for use in the alluvial Tigris-Euphrates plain, divided as it was by 
innumerable waterways. The natural means of movement was by water, whatever the "Royal Standard" 


of Ur may suggest. Limited land movement made for static, set-piece military engagements. 

Archaeologists are too often inclined to examine and compare artifacts with little consideration for 
the craftsmen who produced them. The linguists can come to their aid by drawing attention to the 
privileged status of the cartwright in early Indo- Aryan society and likewise of the smith. The economic 
role of the former and the dependence of the farmer for his tools and the soldier for his weapons on the 
latter must cast some light, however oblique, on PIE and later Indo-European society. In Vedic India 
the craftsman may well have enjoyed privileges, such as his role in the sacrificial ritual, setting him 
rather apart from the main community, the priests, warriors and farmers. These are sometimes envisaged 
as the backbone of PIE society, too uncritically supposed to be founded on a tripartite structure (Mallory 
1989: 131; Zimmer 1990a: 313). One argument discerns this tripartite social structure in a treaty of 
c.1380 BC between Mitanni and the Hittite kingdom, enlisting the aid of the Indie gods Mitra, Varuna, 
the war god Indra and the Nasatyas (Dumezil 1958). Vedic India, however, was not the same as the 
PIE Pontic-Caspian homeland. For one thing, there is no hint in the latter of the presence of a fourth 
class, the sudras, the non-Aryan conquered indigenous population of India. 

Weapons do not occur in enough variety and quantity in the Yamnaya cultural context to provide 
clear archaeological indications of a prominent military class in PIE society. Nor can such evidence be 
detected in the largely contemporary Hurrian society of the ETC cultural zone to the south. Yet the 
PIE population, as indeed the Hurrians soon afterwards, possessed those two means for initial expansion, 
the horse and the wheeled vehicle. As mentioned above, the dispersal from the PIE homeland began 
from the later fourth millennium BC but not earlier. What more likely stimulus for such a dispersal, 
even if its precise form eludes us, than contact with the thrusting entrepreneurs of the Late Uruk Sumerian 
cities and their outposts (Algaze 1 989) ? Many historical parallels show that sudden awareness of 
richer, more sophisticated societies is a powerful incentive to leave home in search of wealth. 

By the second millennium BC these movements by early Indo-Europeans would have been greatly 
restricted but for the enhancement of the advantage of abundant supplies of horses, in the development 
of that formidable weapon of war, the horse-drawn chariot. Of light construction with spoked wheels, 
manoevrable on the battlefield, this was in no way comparable with the solid-wheeled ox-carts and 
wagons of the PIE homeland and in Sumer, the land of their adoption. As is well known, it was an 
Indie (Indo- Aryan) element which brought the disciplined use of chariotry to the kingdom of Mitanni, 
though their presence cannot be proved before the fifteenth century BC (Mallory 1 989: 38). Linguistic 
evidence, however, implies an earlier period for the arrival of these Indo-Aryans in north Syria. The 
rapid dissemination across the Near East, including Egypt, of the horse-drawn chariot is attested from 
c. 1700 BC. The argument is between those suggesting an independent development of the Near Eastern 
chariot from the heavy, disc- wheeled ox-cart (Littauer and Crouwel 1979: 68-71) and supporters of an 
Indo-European, specifically Indo-Aryan, origin. The wide dispersal of Indo-European words for 'wheel' 
(ratha, rota etc.), 'shaft-pole', 'axle', 'yoke' and 'harness' has influenced discussion (Mallory 1989: 
275-6; contra Renfrew 1987: 86). Perhaps it would be wiser to make a contrast simply between a 
Near Eastern and an intrusive origin, the latter not exclusively Indo-European. 

The archaeological evidence, though not abundant, may be said to support the argument for an 
intrusive, non-Near Eastern origin of the chariot, while the remarkable rapidity of its spread in the early 
second millennium BC also suggests its importation. The crucial innovation was the spoked wheel, 
widely attested in New Kingdom Egypt, known to have imported horses and chariots from Mitanni. At 
one time it seemed as if the earliest occurrence of the spoked wheel in the highland zone of the Near East 
was on some of the wagons buried with other, disc-wheeled wooden vehicles in Armenia, at Lchashen 
beside Lake Sevan. While these prove the wood-working skills of the local cartwrights, their dating is 
late, around the thirteenth century BC. The writer can no longer uphold his suggestion of the introduction 
of these vehicles to the Sevan area from Mitanni (Burney and Lang 1971: 105-6). The seven chariots 
among the fifty wheeled vehicles depicted in the rock drawings of the Syunik district in western Armenia 

186 Charles BURNEY 

cannot be dated more precisely than to the second millennium BC. Moreover, they represent chariots 
— distinguished from the carts by rear rather than central axle — in design not military function, since 
the draught animals, where indicated, are not horses but oxen (Piggott 1983: 78-82). More relevant is 
the occurrence far to the north-east, on the Sintashta River in the southern Urals, of a cemetery where 
five timber-lined graves were excavated in 1972, revealing impressions in the soil of chariots with 
spoked wheels, having diameters of 0.90m. to 1 .00m. There is also abundant evidence of horse sacrifice, 
with seven in one tomb (Piggott 1983: 91-2). The cultural context is Andronovo, thus dateable from 
the early second millennium BC: these chariots therefore occur in a vast cultural zone probably comprising 
a number of sub-provinces. Approximately contemporary evidence comes from a Timber-Grave Kurgan 
cemetery near Saratov on the lower Volga, where a chariot with spoked wheels is incised on a pot 
(Piggott 1983: 92-3). 

The wider significance of these Andronovo and Srubnaya (Timber-Grave) finds is that they can 
with some assurance be set in a defined ethno-linguistic context, to be termed Indo-Iranian. The 
Andronovo zone can be equated with the territories of the historical Eastern Iranians (Saka, Massagatae, 
Sarmatians and Alans). The problem remains, a propos the origins of the horse-drawn chariot, of the 
relatively late date of the Sintashta cemetery. This being the earliest known surviving evidence of 
spoked wheels in the Eurasian steppes, it can be objected that there is no archaeological case for priority 
for the horse-drawn chariot outside the Near East. But this would be to ignore the ample evidence for 
early and widespread domestication of the horse, even though wild horses survived almost indefinitely, 
e.g. in the representation on a silver bowl of the early third millennium BC from Maikop (Piggott 1983: 
88). Moreover, parallels between the earliest Yamnaya burials of the Volga-Ural group and graves in 
the Tobol basin east of the Urals, on the one hand, and the Afanasievo culture of the Minusinsk-Altai 
region around the headwaters of the Yenisey River, on the other hand, indicate a vast eastward expansion 
of the Yammaya (Pontic-Caspian) population and thus of the early Indo-Europeans. With them they 
took their material culture and ritual traditions. This expansion seems to have occurred by c.3000 BC 
(Mallory 1989: 62, 225-6). Thus an Indo-European population had penetrated two thousand miles 
east of the lower Volga, to the very heart of central Asia. With the availability of horses and timber, the 
long tradition of wooden carts and wagons and the vast scale in terms of territory and probably also of 
population, by prehistoric standards, it seems inconceivable that the horse-drawn chariot with spoked 
wheels had not been in use here long before the period of the above-mentioned Sintashta cemetery. The 
decisive argument is related to the nature of the steppes and the great distances. It has been observed 
that a solid- wheeled ox-cart moves at only one tenth of the pace of a horse-drawn chariot (Piggott 1983: 
241). The movements required to gain new pastures, peacefully or by force, needed to be swift: there 
was time enough for women and children and family possessions to arrive at the sedate pace of an ox- 
cart caravan. 

The horse-drawn chariot seems to have first arrived south of the steppes with the Indo-Aryan 
migration from the Andronovo zone. One group entered India and the other north-eastern Iran, the 
latter perhaps by c.3000 BC and as a direct outcome of the eastward expansion to the Yenisey. Except 
for the Gurgan plain and Tepe Hissar, there is little or no archaeological trace of these first Indo-Europeans 
to enter Iran. The term 'grey ware', familiar in the archaeological literature, is sometimes misused, at 
least by implication (Mallory 1989: 50), being occasionally used to embrace Early Bronze Age and Iron 
I pottery alike, instead of being restricted to the latter. This is no pedantic point, since the Iron I grey 
ware (Hasanlu V, Haftavan V etc.) is generally accepted as the hallmark of the Iranian migrations of the 
mid-second millennium BC, too late to be relevant to the origin of the chariot (Young 1967 and 1985). 

It has been postulated, with good reason, that the Indo- Aryans first introduced or developed chariotry 
in Iran; and that it was adopted by the Hurrian and Kassite populations occupying much of western Iran 
(Diakonov 1984: 22). The gold bowl of Hasanlu, albeit of late date (unlikely to be earlier than c. 1000 
BC, though conceivably so), has a crowded design dominated by three chariots in a file, led by a god, 


almost certainly the Human storm god Teshub/Tesheba. The Urartian kings, who overran the Urmia 
basin in the late ninth century BC, are amply recorded as expert horsemen, giving a leading role in their 
army to the cavalry and chariotry (Burney and Lang 1971 : 143; Melikishvili 1960: 204). What debt, if 
any, was owed by the Urartian army to the frontier regions in Trans-Caucasia in relation to chariotry is 
a question posed by such evidence as the quadrigae engraved on a bronze belt-plate from Astkhi-Blur in 
Armenia, attributed to the eighth or ninth century BC: the chariots are involved in a stag hunt (Piggott 
1983: 136). The Assyrian military records are of course both written and pictorial. Chariotry was 
playing a major or at least significant role by the early thirteenth century BC under Shalmaneser I 
(Luckenbill 1926: 40), no doubt an outcome of the fall of Mitanni. The subsequent defeat of the Mushki 
by Tiglath-Pileser I, when he captured 120 chariots (Saggs 1984: 59), and Late Assyrian dependence on 
a supply of horses from such regions as the Urmia basin (Luckenbill 1927: 84) are noteworthy. 

The spread of the lightly constructed chariot — suited to parades, hunting and raiding as well as to 
the battlefield, where it was controlled by the blowing of trumpets — westwards to central Europe 
(Slovakia) and eastwards to Vedic India and even to China during the Shang period (c. 1850-1027 BC) 
emphasizes the immense span of Indo-European activity. The adoption of chariots in China marks 
their dissemination beyond the Indo-European sphere. Later on, Sun Tzu, living late in the Spring and 
Autumn Period of Chinese history (c. HQ-All BC), compiled a military manual, The Art of War, full of 
profound good sense and still highly regarded, in which the use of chariots is mentioned (Sun Tzu 500 

Two Peoples ? 

This discussion has touched only briefly on the interrelationships between Hurrians and Indo-Europeans. 
It is now appropriate to draw what conclusions are possible, while yet posing questions which cannot be 
answered here, if anywhere. 

The problems of the PIE and Hurrian homelands are here treated as solved, in that the evidence 
points overwhelmingly to the Pontic-Caspian and ETC cultural zones respectively (Fig. 1). There is a 
geographical common frontier, approximating to the Caucasus, though later the picture becomes much 
less sharply focussed, notably in Iran. Both ethnic groups seem to have derived aspects of their culture 
from the Caucasus, such as viticulture especially for the Hurrians; the PIE lexicon relates to a mountainous 
land; and rivers and mountains are significant in both mythological traditions. But there are differences, 
including the disparity of our knowledge of the cultural antecedents. There is one chronological 
synchronism, the emergence of the ETC culture and of the Yamnaya (Pit-Grave) culture at much the 
same time, around 3600 BC. Yet there is no equivalent in the Hurrian homeland to the Sredny Stog 
culture of the Dnieper-Donets region, evidence of which enables the archaeological dimension of the 
PIE homeland to be stretched back well into the fifth millennium BC. Present-day knowledge of eastern 
Anatolia in the fifth and early fourth millennia BC, however, remains virtually non-existent, except for 
the Malatya-Elazig region and also the Urmia basin. The far more restricted habitat of Hurrian-speakers 
compared with that of speakers of Indo-European languages after the dispersal from the PIE homeland 
has contributed to the narrower vision of their proto-lexicon. Of course debate continues round the 
whole question of the validity of linguistic palaeontology; and many scholars are sceptical of those 
reconstructed words preceded by an asterisk ! 

Hurrians and Indo-Europeans had much in common in their cultural traditions. Both were centred 
round the patrilinear family, evident in Hurrian property laws at Nuzi (Justins 1992: 450). The Indo- 
European sky god and the Hurrian weather god are broadly comparable. Religion was not codified in 
temples, priesthoods and their rituals, except where acculturation occurred in the Near East. Music 
and recitation accompanied rituals and social gatherings in both ethnic homelands. Solid-wheeled 
vehicles became widespread in both homelands before chariotry appeared. Both societies were 
essentially tribal for most of the time, until the Urartian collaterals of the Hurrians established their 

188 Charles BURNEY 

kingdom, even if extensive tribal alliances may have been more easily established in the open plains and 
steppes of the Pontic-Caspian zone. 

Warfare must have been more widespread and culturally significant than appears from available 
data. Warrior burials are widely distributed in the Near East from the later third into the early second 
millennium BC, but die out c. 1600 BC (Philip 1995). The highly detailed annals of the Assyrian kings, 
however, are hardly reflected in the archaeological record for Anatolia or Iran. Only cities such as 
Nineveh, violently and permanently destroyed, have left clear evidence in the ground of their destruction. 
In preliterate times armies could march through alien territory without leaving any signs of their passing 
likely to be detectable today. Such forays would have been simpler in the Pontic-Caspian zone and on 
the steppes to eastward than in the Hurrian homeland with its natural barriers to easy movement. The 
Vedic records contribute to the evidence of a military class in the Indo-European world, in those lands 
under the tutelage of the war god Indra. The term "Aryan", used of himself by Darius I and properly 
limited to the Indo-Iranians, carries the meaning of 'member of the community' and by extension 
'kinsman' or 'friend' (Szemerenyi 1977: 125-49). 

Times of unrest or war can hinder or destroy trade, particularly where merchants have to travel long 
distances through insecure or hostile regions. War can,however, be a stimulus to economic endeavour 
by increasing demand, especially for metals. The Sumerians were great imitators, acquiring their 
economic superiority largely through their administrative talents, with the added advantage of operating 
on interior lines in relations with peripheral lands lacking political unity. The initial phase of economic 
expansion had come in the later fourth millennium BC, just at the time when the diaspora from the PIE 
homeland was beginning. Was there perhaps a causal connection ? Be that as it may, trade from the 
heart of the ETC cultural zone, the Hurrian homeland, would pass through such "gateway" settlements 
as Arslantepe near Malatya, itself a metal-working centre (Frangipane and Palmieri 1983: 394-406; 
Burney 1993). Links between the Pontic-Caspian zone and the Near East beyond the ETC zone at this 
time were very possibly more significant via the Balkans and north-western Anatolia than via the Caucasus, 
though such north-south movements have been suggested (Mallory 1989: 263-4). Later, in the second 
millennium BC, cultural influences tended rather to move northwards from the Urmia basin into Trans- 
Caucasia. The dating and distribution of kurgans in and around Trans-Caucasia implies an interchange 
of populations either side of the Caucasus. 

The PIE homeland may well have witnessed a phenomenon comparable with the swarming of bees, 
a colluvies gentium, in that people from round and about were drawn as by a magnet to the wide cattle- 
rearing grasslands, where there was space to expand and to secure a firm base for the family. This 
gathering of tribes may initially not have been related to ties of kinship but rather to economic stimuli. 
Thus the marginalized elements in surrounding regions — wandering craftsmen, landless younger sons, 
tinkers and even perhaps would-be mercenaries — would have been attracted to these wide new spaces 
(Zimmer 1990b: 145-6). Once they ceased to be wide enough, the urban communities of much of the 
Near East were in danger. A similar phenomenon, on a smaller scale, is observable with the Habiru in 
the Fertile Crescent during the second millennium BC. 

What, finally, can be said of Indo-Europeans and Hurrians in the Near East ? Both technologically 
and in military skills they were a positive and sometimes interrelated force, highlanders and steppe 
pastoralists among and at times against the old sedentary urban and rural communities. Nowhere except 
in Iran and in the ETC zone with its eventual successor state of Urartu did these northerners come to a 
dominant role, as did the Aryan invaders of northern India. 

Whether the archaeologists, linguists, historians and anthropologists are justified in seeking to 
distinguish different ethnic groups is arguable. This has proved a difficulty in a very different context, 
the age of the gradual Anglo-Saxon occupation and ultimate conquest of the land since called England. 
The juxtaposition of two groups, the older Celtic inhabitants and the Germanic intruders, is recognizable 
in graves of the fifth and sixth centuries AD, where the Anglo-Saxon invaders were buried with weapons 


but not so the native Britons. Moreover, there was a difference of two inches (five centimetres) in the 
average stature of the taller Anglo-Saxons and the shorter Britons. The genetic mixture was such that 
by the seventh to ninth centuries AD the stature of the two groups had levelled out at the mean between 
the shorter Celts and taller Anglo-Saxons. The ultimate answers may be reached through DNA tests, 
now being conducted on physical remains from north Germany and Denmark and from England and 
Wales (Harke 1995a-b). Turning once again to eastern Europe, it is perhaps unfortunate to find 
unspecified reference to genetic evidence "supporting the hypothesis of two originally separate homelands 
for the Uralic and Indo-European peoples..." (Haarmann 1994: 285). 

In the final analysis, ethnic identity is not in any meaningful sense shaped by genes but by cultural 
identity, wherein language plays a significant but not necessarily a dominant role. An Indo-Aryan — 
Hurrian symbiosis has been suggested (Mayrhofer 1966: 29). One linguist even claims (Justins 1992: 
450) that "if the Hurrian language... were not so clearly non-Indo-European in its particulars, one would 
ask if the Hurrians were not more Indo-European than the Hittites." What more can be said ? 


ETC = Early Trans-Caucasian, PIE = Proto-Indo-European. 

List of publications cited 

AS Anatolian Studies 

BAR British Archaeological Reports 

J AOS Journal of the American Oriental Society 

JIES Journal of Indo-European Studies 

Algaze, Guillermo 

1989 The Uruk expansion, Current Anthropology 30: 571-608. 
Anthony, David W. 

1986 The "Kurgan culture", Indo-European origins and the domestication of the horse: a reconsideration, Current 

Anthropology 27: 291-314. 
1991 The archaeology of Indo-European origins, JIES 19: 193-222. 

Anthony, David W. and Brown, Dorcas 

1991 The origins of horseback riding, Antiquity 65(246): 22-38. 
Burney, Charles 

1958 Eastern Anatolia in the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age, AS 8: 157-209. 
1961-1964 Excavations at YanikTepe 1960-1962, Iraq 23: 138-53; 24: 134^19; 26: 54-61. 

1989a Hurrians and Proto-Indo-Europeans: the ethnic context of the Early Trans-Caucasian culture, in Emre, Hrouda 
etal. 1989: 45-51. 

1989b The Khirbet Kcrak question and the Early Trans-Caucasian background, in Miroschedji 1989: 331-9. 

1990 The Indo-European impact on the Hurrian world, in Markey and Greppin 1990: 45-52. 

1993 Arslantepe as a gateway to the highlands: a note on Periods VIA-VID, in Frangipane, Hauptmann etal. 1993: 31 1- 

1994 Contact and conflict in north-western Iran, Iranica Antiqua 29: 47-62. 

(in press) The highland sheep are sweeter, paper delivered to a symposium on Cultural Interaction in the Ancient Near East 
in the University of Melbourne, autumn 1994. 

Burney, Charles A. and Lang, David Marshall 

1 97 1 The Peoples of the Hills, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. 

Campbell, Stuart and Green, Anthony R. (editors) 

1995 The Archaeology of Death in the Ancient Near East, Oxbow Monograph 51. Oxford: Oxbow Books. 
Carter, Elizabeth and Parker, Andrea 

1995 Pots, people and the archaeology of death in northern Syria and southern Anatolia in the latter half of the third 

190 Charles BURNEY 

millennium BC, in Campbell and Green 1995: 96-1 16. 
Childe, V. Gordon 

1 926 The A ryans: A Study of Indo-European Origins, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. 
1952 New Light on the Most Ancient East, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 

Cilingiroglu, Altan 

1984 The second millennium painted pottery tradition of the Van lake basin, AS 34: 129-39. 
Conti, Anna Maria and Persiani, Carlo 

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